One of the most important tools to protect your business – your ideas (copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, confidential and proprietary information), customer relationships and talent pool – is your written contract. Your contract is the foundation for a reliable relationship for you, your customers and your employees. More importantly, it helps to prevent misunderstandings and false expectations that can lead to a breakdown in your customer relationship, jeopardize projects, or even worse, result in litigation.
Starting with a form is just OK.
Many companies start with a model or “form” contract adapted from forms available online or drafted when the business first started. Oftentimes, I am presented with form contracts “downloaded from the Internet” or provided by a form-filling service that will do cheap and quick corporations or LLCs, without actually providing any legal services. Although these forms may be a good starting point, your business needs, it deserves, contracts tailored to the specific needs of the enterprise or relationships.
Franken-contracts can ruin your business.
As businesses develop over time, you may have revised your contracts, adding a little here, removing a little there. Maybe you read an article about an important case in your industry and decided to add some text from the contract discussed in the court’s legal opinion. In many cases, over time, the agreements become “Franken-contracts” an odd amalgamation of trade lingo, inconsistent terms and even contradictory conditions. At best these are ambiguous and confusing to read. At worst, they become unenforceable.
Review contract annually to avoid weak spots.
At some point, you should review, revise and generally “tighten” existing contracts. You should have your lawyer review them to make sure that there are no mistakes, ambiguities or omissions that could cost you or your customers. I urge clients to have their contract forms reviewed on an annual basis. Depending on changes in the law, changes in the industry or changes in your own business, this process should only take a few hours.
Contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation.
To learn more about how we can help your with your business and contracts, contact the Lawyers at the Adler Law Group at David @ adler – law . com (without spaces) or (866) 734-2568. Learn more abut us here:
It is inevitable in almost every business. You will need to let an employee go. Whether it’s a seasoned designer coming with plug-and-play experience or a fresh face just out of design school, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Recently, several of my designer clients have had to fire an employee due to the employee’s misconduct. This could be anything from soliciting and directing company clients and prospects, to doing personal consulting work on the company’s dime, to taking property and information. Regardless of the reason, here are five “R”s to keep in mind.
1. Review the contract.
2. Reconcile and pay.
3. Request return of property.
4. Reiterate respectfulness.
5. Reserve rights.
With those ideas in mind, let’s consider each one. A little more.
1. Review the contract/offer letter. This is always the first step and will provide guidance on termination rights, procedures and remedies, if any.
2. Reconcile and pay what’s owed. See number 1. Ensure that except for payment of contractual and statutory amounts, no other salary, commissions, overtime, bonuses, vacation pay, sick pay, severance pay, additional severance pay or other payments or benefits whatsoever will be paid.
3. Request return of property and information, in whatever form. Request all property any and all property or documents the employee created or received in the course of employment, including, but not limited to e-mails, passwords, documents and other electronic information, hardware such as laptop computers and cellular telephones, calculators, smartphones and other electronic equipment (mobile phone, tablet, etc.), software, keys, company credit cards, calling cards, parking transponder, information technology equipment, client lists, files and other confidential and proprietary documents, in any media or format, including electronic files.
4. Reiterate a professional’s obligation to remain respectful. Specific admonition of non-disparagement such as “refrain from saying, making, writing or causing to be made or written, disparaging or harmful comments about us, our employees and/or our clients.”
5. Reserve rights. Close your termination notice by expressly reserving legal and equitable rights and remedies.
Please note that this is not legal advice and you should consult your own lawyer regarding your rights and obligations in the context of terminating your employee’s employment.
Every business transaction is governed by contract law, even if the parties don’t realize it. Despite the overwhelming role it plays in our lives, contract law can be incredibly difficult to understand.
Successful Interior Designers know how to manage the legal needs of the business while bringing a creative vision to life for a client or project. Confusion about rights, obligations, and remedies when things go wrong can strain and even ruin an otherwise promising professional relationship.
This program teaches new designers and entrepreneurs answers to some basic questions, such as:
What to do when clients / vendors / contractors don’t pay?
How can one use Indemnifications, Disclaimers and Limitations of Liability clauses to balance business risk when the parties may not be economically balanced?
What types of remedies are available and what are the limitations in scope for certain types of monetary and “equitable” remedies?
Take a deeper dive into advanced issues for interior design professionals. Learn how contracts can protect your design business and how to safeguard your rights.
Qualifies for .1 CEU credit.
This program was originally delivered on Aug. 17, 2017 at the Design Center at theMART 14th Floor Conference Center, 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago, IL 60654
Do you work with start-up companies and need a basic understanding of the various intellectual property issues that can arise?
I will be co-presenting in this online seminar that will help you:
understand the trademark and copyright problems your client may encounter with branding;
learn how to protect your client’s branding once established;
familiarize your practice with patents, including what they protect, timing, and strategies to prevent inadvertent loss of patent rights before filing the application;
understand trade secrets and the importance of non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements;
recognize intellectual property issues relating to technology, including open source code and the cloud;
establish a proactive approach toward intellectual property ownership between cofounders, employees, and vendors; understand business names, domain names, promotional issues, and website content concerns.
The plaintiff in this declaratory judgment action had been employed by a subsidiary of an insurance company that marketed finance and insurance products to the automotive industry. After a sale of that business, plaintiff’s employment was terminated, but he was offered employment conditioned upon his acceptance of an “Employee Confidentiality and Inventions Agreement” (the agreement) which included non-solicitation and non-compete provisions. The agreement states in pertinent part:
“Employee agrees that for a period of two (2) years from the date Employee’s employment terminates for any reason, Employee will not, directly or indirectly, within any of the 50 states of the United States, for the purposes of providing products or services in competition with the Company (i) solicit any customers, dealers, agents, reinsurers, PARCs, and/or producers to cease their relationship with the Company *** or (ii) interfere with or damage any relationship between the Company and customers, dealers, agents, reinsurers , PARCs, and/or producers *** or (iii) *** accept business of any former customers, dealers, agents, reinsurers, PARCs, and/or producers with whom the Company had a business relationship within the previous twelve (12) months prior to Employee’s termination.”
Plaintiff successfully negotiated with Premier a provision that the restrictive covenants would NOT apply if he was terminated without cause during the first year of his employment (the first-year provision). Three months later, plaintiff resigned, began working for a competitor and sued to have the restrictive covenants held unenforceable stating that plaintiff had no access to confidential and proprietary information. The trial court held that the restrictive Covenants were unenforceable for lack of “consideration” – a legal term of art that generally means a bargained-for exchange of value. The appeals court affirmed.
Defendant argued that the non-solicitation and non-compete provisions were enforceable because the offer of employment was adequate consideration, there was a mutual exchange of promises (employment in exchange for restrictions), and the covenants were pre-employment, not post- employment. Defendant further argued that “the purpose of Illinois law regarding restrictive covenants is to protect against the illusory benefit of at-will employment” which was “nullified by the inclusion of the first-year [non-enforcement] provision in the agreement.”
Plaintiff countered with the argument that the provisions in the agreement are unenforceable because Illinois law requires employment to continue for a substantial period of time and that “Illinois courts have repeatedly held that two years of continued employment is adequate consideration to support a restrictive covenant…regardless of whether an employee is terminated or decides to resign on his own.”
The appellate court agreed with plaintiff citing Brown & Brown, Inc. v. Mudron, 379 Ill. App. 3d 724, 728 (2008) which held that the promise of continued employment in the context of post-employment restrictive covenants may be an illusory benefit where the employment is at-will. “Illinois courts have held that continued employment for two years or more constitutes adequate consideration. Id. at 728-29.”
The Fifield decisions has already generated a great deal of discussion from corporate board rooms to legal blogs. Unfortunately for businesses and their lawyers, the case leaves many unanswered questions.
For example, the court does not discuss whether the outcome would have been different if the employee were a high-level executive with immediate access to a wide range of highly sensitive confidential and proprietary information. At best,mother court simply mentions the plaintiff’s allegations that he had no access to such information.
Another area of uncertainty impacts start-up and early stage businesses. Very young businesses are often highly dynamic and early employees have access to a broad swath of the company’s Intangible assets such as business and revenue models, marketing plans, computer software and hardware and prospective customers, regardless of whether they serve a customer service function or “C-suite” executive function. The requirement that an employee have two years continued employment before a restrictive covenant becomes enforceable ignores the very real dynamic of start-up companies.
Lastly, an important question that went unanswered is whether the employer can offer some other “consideration” besides two years continued employment. For example, is there a pure monetary consideration that would support enforcement of the covenant? What if the covenant only lasted as long as the period of the departing employee’s employment?
If you have restrictive covenants in your agreements with employees, it is strongly recommended that you meet with your lawyer to discuss the impact of this case on these agreements and your business. At the very least, you should carefully review your non-compete and non-solicitation agreements to see if they are supported by adequate consideration. If you have questions or concerns, or just don’t know how to begin, feel free to contact the lawyers at Leavens, Strand, Glover & Adler for a free, in-person or over-the-phone consultation. You can also email the author here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to a PwC report released last week, fewer Canadian tech startups are looking for buyers in order to exit the market, choosing instead to find ways to reach their next growth stage and generate revenue in Canada.
Lehigh Valley Business
CyOptics, once a startup that received funding and help from Ben Franklin, is just one success story, according to Laura S. Eppler, director of marketing for Ben Franklin Northeastern Pennsylvania.
At first glance you might not think there is much in common between the film industry and tech startups. I’m here to tell you differently. Both industries have their own set of challenges, whether you’re starting out, or refining your craft/company.
Wall Street Journal (blog)
Tech watchers once considered the database market pretty stagnant, at least in terms of new technology and new entrants. Suddenly it is anything but that, with Clustrix a prime example.
Leaders of the Chicago startup community released figures Friday regarding the city’s start-up growth coinciding with the first anniversary of 1871, one of the city’s start-up incubators. “Over the last year, the tech community has really come together.
The Next Web
Rumors about the move have been circulating since late last month and follows the announcement that Ben Finkel is also involved at Jelly as Christopher Isaac “Biz” Stone’s fellow co-founder and Chief Technology Officer.
Business Times (subscription)
Thermal management solutions for lithium-ion batteries are also exactly what Gcorelab, a local clean tech startup, specialises in. Gcorelab is developing what it calls a “small liquid-based thermal management system” for electric vehicles.
Tech in Asia
Gai When you’ve been co-founder and CEO of Snapture Labs, held the same titles at CardMunch, Inc. and are currently founder and chief ambassador at World Startup Report, you tend to attract attention when you enter the tech and startup community.
Florida Bar Hosts Entertainment Law Event | Billboard
NEW YORK–The Florida Bar Assn.’s Entertainment Arts and Sports Law Section will host its sixth annual legal symposium on music, film and TV on March 26.
Entertainment lawyer Mike Novak dies
The Macomb Daily
For nearly three decades, Mike Novak’s name was synonymous with entertainment in the Detroit area. During his career the Troy-based attorney, a resident of Grosse Pointe Shores, represented the likes of artists such as Bob Seger and Kid Rock.
David M. Adler, Esq. is a 2012 Illinois SuperLawyer, author, educator, entrepreneur and partner with Leavens, Strand, Glover & Adler, LLC, a boutique law firm in Chicago, Illinois created with a specific mission: provide businesses with a competitive advantage by enabling them to leverage their intangible assets and creative content in order to drive innovation and increase overall business value.
On September 25, 2012, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement with seven rent-to-own companies that secretly installed software on rented computers, clandestinely collected information, took pictures of consumers in their homes (WTF?!) and tracked these consumers’ locations.
If you haven’t vomited on your computer from the sickening outrage, you can read the FTC press release here.
Software design firm DesignerWare, LLC licensed software to rent-to-own stores ostensibly to help them track and recover rented computers. The software collected the data that enabled rent-to-own stores, including franchisees of Aaron’s, ColorTyme, and Premier Rental Purchase, to track the location of rented computers without consumers’ knowledge
According to the FTC, the software enabled remote computer disabling if it was stolen, or if the renter failed to make payments. It included an add-on purportedly to help stores locate rented computers and collect late payments. Alarmingly, the software also collected data that allowed the rent-to-own operators to secretly track the location of rented computers, and thus the computers’ users.
When activated, the nefarious feature logged key strokes, captured screen shots and took photographs using a computer’s webcam, according to the FTC. It also presented a fake software program registration screen that tricked consumers into providing their personal contact information.
“An agreement to rent a computer doesn’t give a company license to access consumers’ private emails, bank account information, and medical records, or, even worse, webcam photos of people in the privacy of their own homes,” said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC. “The FTC orders today will put an end to their cyber spying.”
“There is no justification for spying on customers. These tactics are offensive invasions of personal privacy,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Charles Colton famously stated “Imitation is the sincerest (form) of flattery.” This has never been more true than in the fast-paced world of fashion where designers constantly draw on prior art for inspiration. As Tim Gunn (mentor to would-be fashion designers on the television show Project Runway) often says, “Make it your own.”
Legislation under consideration in the U.S. may provide limited protection for Haute Couture fashion designs.
And with the government mulling a media law to tighten its grip over the fledgling but lively Afghan press corps, Nai hoped social media could help safeguard political and social freedoms, as occurred during the wave of uprisings across the Middle East.
It’s a bracing lesson, on a local stage, in the power of social media to create community around an issue and ratchet up pressure on key players – in this case, the members of the Abington board and its president and CEO, Laurence Merlis. “It’s amazing to me just how fast word spread,” …. A community-conscious and activist community, with a high concentration of concerned, committed people who work in industries such as law, medicine, public relations, and journalism.
Once new information began streaming in about the shooting, over 100 viewers began responding to the Action 4 News Facebook page and Twitter feed. As the day progressed, over 500 comments came into valleycentral.com andAction 4 social media
Media Wise Parents to the rescue
Windsor This Week
Media Wise Parents helps parents, educators and churches become more aware with social media and the internet. Tweet · Bookmark and … It’s certainly in my background with law and marketing, it’s always something that interests me.
Law enforcement is taking to social media because criminals are changing their behavior and using social media to facilitate crime. In response, law enforcement officials are using it to track down criminals and as a predictive policing tool, said Haywood.
The survey, of more than 1200 law enforcement professionals with federal, state, and local agencies, found that 83% of the respondents are using social media, particularly Facebook and YouTube, to further their investigations.
It’s not just prospective customers, partners or employers who may be scanning the social media landscape to glean information about you and your organization. The long arm of the law has joined the party as well, a new survey shows.
How Law Enforcement Is Using Social Media (Infographic)
Law enforcement officials are using social media to solve crimes and will continue to do so in greater numbers. In an online survey conducted by LexisNexis Risk Solutions, four out of five law enforcement officials used social media.